May 26th, 2024

Noteworthy: If you can’t afford home, you can’t afford to be fined for it

By Bruce Penton on May 1, 2024.

One of the dumbest things I’ve heard in the last few days is the plan by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on the matter of fining homeless people for camping in certain public places. The suit’s genesis is an Oregon town that plans to issue a $295 fine to anyone – homeless or otherwise – camping in unauthorized public places.

Now, homelessness is a serious problem, even existing here in Medicine Hat (despite what you might have heard), but those who are faced with living without a home certainly cannot afford a $295 fine per night. So what are the options? Don’t pay the fine and spend time in jail; serve time; camp out again; go back to jail – a never-ending circle of despair that society is having trouble dealing with.

A 2018 ruling by a lower court in the U.S. said it violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment to give people criminal citations for sleeping outside when they had no place else to go. The ruling on this matter, expected this summer, will probably filter over to Canada, where statistics show that on any given night, there are 25,000 to 35,000 people sleeping outside. While there may be close to 100 homeless folks in Medicine Hat, many have a roof over their head at night, either in a shelter or in provisional accommodation.

• The 11th annual Move for Mental Health Fun Run/Walk goes this Sunday at Kin Coulee Park. Organizers want you to wear green, the colour of mental health awareness. Full info can be found at

• Did you know that Alberta and B.C. are the only Canadian provinces to have laws requiring pre-payment of fuel? So-called ‘gas-and-dash’ thefts have been virtually eliminated in the two Western provinces and there is a movement to have the law expanded across the country. In New Brunswick, police have said they will no longer investigate reports of gasoline thefts, since there were 5,400 cases from 2020 to 2023, and the prepayment option is so readily available.

In effect the New Brunswick police are forcing fuel companies to establish prepayment pumps, which only makes sense. I recently drove to Texas and back and didn’t find a single service station along the way allowing a consumer to fill a tank and then go inside to pay.

• One little shot of humour to spice things up (stolen from the internet): “I grew up with Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Now there’s no jobs, no cash and no hope.  Please don’t let anything happen to Kevin Bacon.”

• Results of an online quiz about Taylor Swift I spent time on finished with the suggestion at the bottom that I ‘try harder’ next time. I know nothing about Swift, other than she is a great singer, writes songs about ex-boyfriends, is currently involved with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and is obnoxiously wealthy. There were 13 questions on the quiz (one of which I guessed correctly: What is Taylor’s lucky number (13) and overall, I was 5-for-13, which works out to 38 per cent (reminds me of a few high-school exams). One would have to be a true Taylorphobe to know the names of her three cats, but I suppose there are people out there with that information lodged in their brains.

• Short snappers: Two of the biggest shoes to fill locally are those of Lyle Rebbeck, stepping down from Medicine Hat’s JazzFest after 26 years of guiding the event to immense popularity. Proud owner of the city’s best ponytail, Rebbeck helped found the Medicine Hat Jazz Society in 1991 and played a key role to get June’s JazzFest off the ground in 1997. … Plans for my golf games this week have been interrupted by the Weather Network’s daytime highs of 7, 6 and 10 today, Thursday and Friday, with rain and snow intermingled with those cool temps. … One of my favourite movies, Back to the Future (pick your I, II or III) is now a Broadway play in New York and a trusted ally saw it recently and suggested he’d give it three thumbs up if he had a third hand. … It’s good to hear that the city hopes to remove the spur line at Dunmore Road near Seven Persons Creek, but don’t they first have to get the OK from Danielle Smith and the UCP government? (Editor’s note: And CP Rail) … Cybercrimes are becoming more commonplace and it hit close to home this week with London Drugs closing all its Western Canadian stores Monday due to a cybersecurity incident.

Bruce Penton is a retired News editor who may be reached at

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